Watch Out for Dangerous Decibels in Exercise Classes

Exercise classes are a great way to promote your general health. Cardiovascular fitness has even been linked to better hearing health, so you might be doing a favor for your ears by regularly attending a spinning or other cardio aerobics class. Despite this potential benefit, a hidden risk is present in the room with you in many of these fitness classes: dangerous noise. Noise-induced hearing loss is one of the top problems when it comes to your hearing health. Although some classes play music at a healthy and safe volume, many fitness classes play sound that is loud enough to cause permanent damage to your hearing. Let’s take a closer look at noise-induced hearing loss, as well as the risk that can be associated with a spinning class. With this risk in mind, you can advocate for your hearing health or wear hearing protection if you are afraid of your instructor turning up the volume to a dangerous level


Noise-Induced Hearing Loss


Although the natural process of aging is one of the top causes of hearing loss, exposure to very loud decibel levels of sound is another potential risk. Some people are exposed to dangerous noise in their workplaces, and that exposure can lead to hearing loss if the duration is long enough. Noise-induced hearing loss occurs in a combination of volume and time, measured in decibels and minutes. Although you can endure roughly 85 decibels of sound for 8 hours without experiencing hearing loss, that time of exposure is cut in half with every 3 decibels of sound you add. For instance, you can only endure 88 decibels of sound for 4 hours, and so on. As you can see, the amount of time you can experience very loud sound is quite short. An explosion, car accident, or gunshot at close range can be enough to cause hearing loss in an instant if that sound is loud enough. You might be surprised how loud the sound can be someplace as seemingly harmless as your spinning class. 


High Decibels at Exercise Classes


Some individual experiences of loud sound in spinning classes led to investigative reporting on the decibel levels that can occur. One reporter took decibel measurement into her own hands. July Belluz, a writer at Vox, reported in 2018 that decibel levels at her spinning class consistently hovered around 100 decibels. At that level, the duration of a class would be sufficient to cause permanent hearing damage to the people in the room. If you consider the risk to the instructor, potentially teaching many classes per day at that level, the risk could be even greater. How do volumes creep so high in these classes? There is an immersive and inspiring effect when you are in a spinning or other exercise class with high volumes. The beat of the music can become a rhythm for your workout, inspiring you to move faster than you otherwise might. Many participants become enthralled with this inspirational effect, finding the motivation to push themselves harder than they could without that loud music. Despite that inspiring effect, they might be doing damage to their hearing in the meantime. 


Protecting Your Hearing


If you are active in fitness classes with high-volume music, you can take a decibel reading during your class. Free apps are available for your phone to measure the volume at any given moment. You will want to take several readings to get an average of the volume at a peak moment in the class, as well as a quieter warm-up or cool-down phase. With that information in hand, you might want to talk to your instructor or the manager of the fitness studio if the level is too high. If you are afraid the staff will not respond with lower volumes in your classes, you might want to take the extra precaution of wearing earplugs. Even disposable foam earplugs can bring down the decibel level in a room around 10 decibels, potentially making the difference between a fitness class that causes permanent hearing damage and a class that simply inspires you to do your best. Be sure to take responsibility for your own hearing health in your next fitness class!